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The Crown’s Erin Doherty on the ‘Rock Star’ Life of Princess Anne

Photo: John Phillips/Getty Images

We don’t blame you if Princess Anne wasn’t exactly on your radar when you began season three of The Crown, given that, well, Prince Charles’s cursed love life and Soviet art spies are a lot juicier to think about than the queen’s only daughter, who’s 14th in line for the throne. But that was a huge mistake and we’re so sorry to Anne, who’s quite possibly tied with Margaret for the most delightful member of the extended Windsor clan. She blares Bowie in her car! She takes zero shit from her parents! She ridicules sexy men before shagging them in fancy hotel rooms! (Vulture’s personal favorite quote? “I hate it when men apologize. It isn’t honorable or chivalrous, it’s wet.”) We could go on and on, but instead we recently hopped on the phone with Erin Doherty, who portrayed Anne in The Crown’s new season, to learn more about her very fun role. It’s 50 percent “rock star,” and 50 percent hair spray.

I have to admit that I never gave Anne much thought within the royal family, but now all I’ve done over the past few weeks is Google things like “Princess Anne love life” and “Princess Anne secrets.” You get to have so much fun.
Let me tell you, I had one of the best years of my life as Princess Anne. She is amazing. I thought exactly the same as you. I truly knew nothing about her life or who she was before I started the show. I’m so excited for people to meet her and hopefully like her as much as we do.

What were your first impressions of Crown Anne when you became involved in the show? Were you expecting someone more prim and proper?
I had zero preconceptions about her. When I was doing my research for her, I immediately went to YouTube to try my luck and see if there was any footage of her at that young age. Luckily, there’s a lot of footage out there, and that’s what I based her on. You can tell from those videos and interviews that she’s a bit of a rock star. There’s one particular interview of her with Michael Parkinson that I watched on repeat. You can see she’s gotten to a point in her family dynamic that she’s so committed to being honest and frank about what she thinks about the monarchy. She’s brilliant. She’s confident. She’s also very funny — she has an amazingly sharp wit that I feel tells you so much about her. She’s a breath of fresh air and it was such a joy to play her.

What is it about Anne that makes her a rock star?
Definitely her fashion. She’s amazingly fashionable, and that’s the way she felt she could express herself. There are so many rules and duties within her family that navigate a lot of her life, so any opportunity she got to insert her personality into, she went for it. Her clothes were a massive way of doing that. She’s a rock star in the sense she was committed to telling people what she thinks. That’s a fun thing to play. I’ve learned so much from her through that characteristic. That’s such an important place to be. Ultimately, you end up shooting yourself in the foot if you’re not honest. I feel like I’ve learned a lot from her. I’d love to meet her.

What have you learned?
Having spent a year in her skin, I feel I’ve come out the other end as more committed to telling the truth and not worrying about what other people will say or think. It doesn’t make you happy if you pander to people’s feelings. You can do no wrong if you say, “This is my genuine opinion.” 

If I’m not mistaken, you have the first post-sex scene for a character in the show, which makes me love even Anne more.
Me too. We were well into filming before that scene was sent to my email, and I swear, I screamed when I read it. To be given that opportunity to have that very human moment that we never expected to see from the royal family was fabulous. I saw it as an amazing opportunity to show this young woman experiencing life as any other young woman would want to. To get to play it was such a gift. There wasn’t any question in my mind that it was the right thing to do. The Crown really shines by showing the family’s flaws and vulnerabilities. That’s when you fall in love with them in a way, because you can go, That’s like me! When you take off the royal badge and see these people as human beings, it’s a beautiful thing. I was chuffed to get one of those moments.

I thought a lot about Anne’s confidence throughout the season, and it was amusing when Andrew asks her how she gets it “at her age.” Where do you think that toughness, as she puts it, comes from?
What fascinates me the most about acting is the psychological side of the craft. With Anne — and even Charles — where I think it comes from is her relationship with her mom. Growing up with the queen as your mom, knowing there’s always going to be something more important than yourself, will have a massive effect on your psychology and the way you approach relationships for the rest of your life. For me, that’s where her armor came from, so she became self-sufficient and believed she didn’t need anyone else. As she grew, she became sturdier and sturdier. She’s a pro at navigating situations because she’s been doing it all her life. She won’t let herself be told what to do or be hurt by anyone. So, I really do think it comes from her mom. The dynamics of that family is just fascinating. I don’t think any other family in the world is that interesting.

It’s interesting that, as the queen’s only daughter, Anne gets along so much better with her dad.
It feels like she and her mom are always figuring out their relationship as they go along. Every scene that I have with Olivia, even, we were figuring out how our two very different characters work with each other — because they’re very different. Anne feels so in sync with her dad, but with her mom, she doesn’t really understand the dynamic. Every time Anne has a conversation with her, it feels very fragile. It’s a minefield. Both of them, every step they take, is trying to understand their relationship better without confronting the fact that they don’t know each other well at all.

Early this season, the queen’s massive Margaret jealousy really takes shape. I sometimes think she’s jealous of Anne, too.
Massively. You’re right, the queen probably knows that. There must be some form of resentment with her daughter. I’d be really interested to speak to Olivia about this. I think they’re so fascinating. Any time we have these group scenes and have all of these personalities at play, bouncing against each other, the atmosphere is electric. They all have their own attitudes to this family environment they’ve been born into.

Do you have a favorite Anne mic-drop moment? You have so many good ones.
Oh god, it has to be that scene where she walks out of the room having spoken to her family about Charles and Camilla and Andrew. And she’s like, “Was that unemotional enough for you?” To be halfway out the door and throw that in their faces was pretty badass.

“Yes mom, yes dad, I had casual sex with this really hot guy, deal with it.”
It’s really the epitome of her, isn’t it? She’s not going to be told what to do by anyone, not even her mom. And he really was hot!

Can you please tell me how they got your hair to be so fluffy and perfectly blown-out?
Oh god, it took more than an hour and a half every day. Maybe two hours. A lot of back-combing and hair spray was required. It’s all my own hair, no wigs. It takes a monumental amount of time, but when you see the end result, it’s perfect. Anne’s hair is its own character.

How much hair spray are we talking?
Three bottles a day, at least. The process of getting it off is horrific. I’m so glad it didn’t get crusty.

The Crown’s Erin Doherty on Princess Anne’s ‘Rock Star’ Life